Senators debate amendment enabling abuse victims to sue political subdivisions

April 5, 2024, 6 a.m. ·

Senator Justin Wayne advocates for his amendment during legislative debate Thursday evening. (Photo by Brian Beach/Nebraska Public Media)

A proposal to allow a victim of child sexual abuse to sue a public entity was debated by the Nebraska Legislature late into the night on Thursday.

Sen. Justin Wayne filed several amendments to his bill regarding punitive damages, including one which would allow an individual to hold political subdivisions or state agencies liable for the sexual assault of a minor by a public employee.

The amendment’s language was taken directly from Sen. Steve Halloran’s bill, which made it out of the Judiciary Committee and was placed on General File, but had not been scheduled for floor debate on its own.

Wayne said the amendment is a way to support survivors of sexual assault and help them heal.

“If a child is sexually assaulted by a state employee, they should have the right to be compensated because you can't redo it, you can't undo it, but you can provide compensation to make that child whole,” he said.

The bill’s opponents, led by Sen. Carolyn Bosn, filibustered for several hours Thursday evening, expressing concerns that the amendment would unfairly burden local taxpayers.

“This amendment will ultimately force taxpayers to pay for the actions of criminals and will cost taxpayers more money,” said Sen. Jana Hughes.

Attempts to kill the bill Thursday night were unsuccessful, and debate is expected to continue next week.